409: Afro Unicorn Creator April Showers’ Journey To Becoming The First Black Woman-Owned Fully Licensed Brand

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409: Afro Unicorn Creator April Showers’ Journey To Becoming The First Black Woman-Owned Fully Licensed Brand

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This week in the guest chair we have visionary creator April Showers, the entrepreneurial expert behind Afro Unicorn. April became the first Black woman to own a fully licensed character brand, putting her with the likes of Disney. Afro Unicorn has rapidly expanded its footprint, being stocked in over 3,500 stores. 

In this episode she shares:

  • How she established a presence in seven major retailers across the U.S. and Canada including Walmart and Target
  • The ins and outs to becoming a licensed character brand, and the major benefits that come along with it
  • Why she doesn’t solely rely on social media for marketing and what really helped put her on the map

Highlights include:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 03:57 Being a serial entrepreneur 
  • 07:31 Creating the Afro-Unicorn character
  • 10:35 Social media as a marketing tool
  • 14:12 Becoming first Black woman to own a licensed character 
  • 24:26 Creating an urban licensing agency
  • 27:41 Building demand for your product
  • 36:22 Marketing once in retail
  • 44:08 Navigating finances of licensing
  • 49:45 Tips for entrepreneurs

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Nicaila Matthews Okome 0:02

You're listening to sign hustle Pro, the podcast that teaches you to build and grow your side hustle from passion project to profitable business, and I'm your host Nicaila So let's get started

Hey, hey friends Welcome Welcome back to the show today in the guest chair. I have April showers. entrepreneur, innovator and founder April is the creator of Afro unicorn. A fully licensed character amplifying representation for women and children of color to celebrate how magical unique and divine they truly are. Whenever a unicorn creator April showers realize that her favorite emoji the unicorn was only available in whites. She was inspired to create a more inclusive, conscious brands, shattering the glass ceiling. Trailblazer April is the first black woman to own a fully licensed character brand with presence in seven major retailers across the United States and Canada with 25 categories from apparel and accessories to toys, puzzles, books, bedding, backpacks, collectibles, and more. Some other fun facts about Afro unicorn, Afro unicorn works with over 45 licensee partners worldwide. And over the past year after a unicorn has grown from one to 25 product categories with 500 skews across the US and Canada including the number one luggage brand at Walmart and a featured brand at Target with three pull togethers in the women's girls and toddler girls categories. Afro unicorn is one of the first licensed brands to have a full texture haircare line with Afro unicorn magical tresses included in both Walmart and CVS this fall. If that's not enough, a new line of six original Afro unicorn books under the Random House books for young readers in print will be released widely in fall 2023 featuring three Afro unicorn characters by name across all Afro unicorn products. So April is a prolific public speaker. She's very inspiring. She's been featured on ABC News, Good Morning, America, three what you need to know. And CBS mornings they all created segments on Afro unicorn, and Oprah daily Viola Davis, Sherri Shepherd, Alicia Keys and Tina Knowles are all early believers. April hopes her success is the blueprint to empower and inspire fellow entrepreneurs to enter the licensing space. She shared so much advice and gems and things I didn't know. So let's get right into it.

All right. All right. April, welcome. Welcome to the side hustle podcast here.

April Showers 2:58

Thank you for having me. Nicaila.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 2:59

I am very excited to have you I actually recently I can't believe it. But that's why the show exists. Right? I just recently learned about you when I put out a call on social like, who else should I interview before I go on maternity leave, and I learned about the amazing thing you have done having this license character. Alright, so take me back. When were you first bitten by the entrepreneurship bug?

April Showers 3:27

Probably age 14.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 3:29

Really what happened at 14?

April Showers 3:30

I just always felt that I was going to be an entrepreneur before I even get started. And let me just say that your podcast is the very first podcast I've ever download on my phone. Really? Oh my god. Thank you.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 3:48

That's an honor to me. Because I remember the first podcast I downloaded and I still just

April Showers 3:55

so right when I kicked off because I've been at you'll find an entrepreneur for a very long time. But right before I kicked off this brand that we're going to talk about, someone told me about your podcast, I don't even know what podcasts were. I don't even know I had it on my phone. But related. I very first podcast that I ever downloaded on my phone was your podcast. So I'm so happy. It's a full circle moment. Okay, so 14 years old. I started like in high school managing groups like 1417 managing a little gospel groups, booking and I met churches and stuff like that. And then 19 I had my own personal assistants agency, where I was hiring other young girls like myself to be pas for other celebrities. And I've always had this entrepreneurial spirit for a long time is

Nicaila Matthews Okome 4:48

amazing. Where were you in your life when the idea for Afro unicorn came about?

April Showers 4:54

So I was between a rock and a hard place now. Honestly, I just So I a little bit of background about me and how I started out for unicorn. I am a serial entrepreneur, I only operate an insurance agency, a State Farm Agency. And I'm also a licensed real estate broker. But I felt like especially with the insurance piece of it, yes, it is my State Farm, but I didn't feel like true ownership in it. Because if I die, the way that their model is set up, it's going to go to somebody else, it's not going to go to my children. And so I started to think I had been in real estate for a very long time, because I was 22 years old before I got into insurance. And I started to like say, you know, what, you need something for legacy building, like something that you can pass on. And although I love opportunity that I have with the insurance world, and I learned so much which we can dive into, but I really wanted something that I can truly earn, own and pass on. And I started Googling and I landed up on this website called the better lemonade stand. I think that's that was it. And it talks about never relying on one source to dictate your livelihood. And it gave you different options that you can have for side hustles and one of them was a t shirt brand. So the word Afro unicorn, that's the name of my brand came to me because my friend kept referring to me as an afro unicorn, well as a unicorn. Because I had the multiple businesses. I'm a single mother of two amazing young boys. And he kept telling me that I was a unicorn. So when I went to go, finally say, Cortez, why do you keep calling me a unicorn? He said, well, because you're managing these businesses. You're raising your boys. You are a unicorn, like I'm a woman. He's like, No, you do it an extraordinary level. You are indeed a unicorn. I googled them. I thought they were unique. They're mystical. So I'm definitely unique. I'm definitely black girl magic. So I started to use my emojis and emojis in our phones over and over again. And then one day, it just hit me like, why is it not black? I want to go find one that looked like me. I couldn't find one. And so instead of complaining about it, I decided to create it. And I created a mind for other entrepreneurs like that's what I was being identified as a serial entrepreneur and I went just to give us this beautiful unicorn to represent who we were. And when I got ready to launch it, it just turns into something very magical, unique, divine magical.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 7:30

Now walk us through the first steps of creating this character. What did that look like? So

April Showers 7:36

in the beginning, it wasn't a licensed character brand. I created an image to represent who we were, and I wanted to have it on the shirt. So I created this beautiful unicorn to represent who I was it was my avatar. And I decided to get it screen printed and put it on the shirt. So that's how the first product started. What did you do after it was

Nicaila Matthews Okome 8:03

on a shirt? You had it for yourself? Did someone stopped you in the street? Did that inspire you to create more or sell it so know

April Showers 8:09

this I launched Afro unicorn with a mission to help other entrepreneurs. On April 28. I invited 25 women to my home. And I had shirts all prepare for them. The unicorn shirts after unicorn shirts and I said look, I'm creating a space for us to motivate, encourage and help each other. There is a quote that if they don't give you a seat at the table, you bring your own folding chair. I had a long table for with folding chairs wrapped around for those 25 women, some of them had side hustles. So I purchase from their businesses. And I said I'm purchasing 25 items to give to the other women. And I want us to be our own resource where we tap into each other and we build. This is a brand that I'm starting it's after unicorn. This is what it's all about. We're going to take photos of you today we're going to do videos of us on that day I had a photographer take photos of all of them their unicorn shirts, I wrote Biles about all of them. I didn't ask them any questions they didn't even know if they were coming to. But I wrote BIOS to talk about what made them unique, divine and magical. I have a special gift of seeing potential into other people and being able to help pull that out of them. We got them on video asking them what did they think when they heard the word after unicorn? What is black girl magic to you? What would you tell your younger selves and from there I had all this content. I had all their VR responses. I had all these photos and it was supposed to be for my website to launch this t shirt brand. Little did I know everyone wanted to know what was my Instagram and social media and I did not have either like I didn't have Instagram at all the day I had this event so I decided to find somebody to help me create an Instagram page because I think didn't know how to do it at that time. So I reached out to someone that created an Instagram page. And we'd launched that page. I think on the second or third of May, we already had a date that we're gonna launch the t shirt brand on May 17. So I was already ready for that. Unfortunately, my son went into the hospital on May 12, or 11. And then he ended up staying there for 20 days. So during that time that we were in the hospital, I really wasn't going to launch after unicorn because we were in the hospital and did not really understand why we were even there. So I learned Instagram during that time, I learned hashtag strategies, I learned how to go find my audience. I had all the content already from the party. So I just started dropping those pictures and videos. And basically the way I started like Nicaila, if you were there, and you were word after unicorn shirt, I would say hey, look at the Kayla rockin her after unicorn shirt that be sure you follow side, hustle Pro and make sure that you do XYZ and this is what makes her unique, divine and magical. And people saw that early on. And they were like, Oh, wow, if I go get a shirt, she's going to talk about my brand and my business. And that's exactly what we did. So we'd launched May I was in the hospital when I launched it. And yeah, from there, we just reached out to certain celebrities that identified themselves as black unicorn. And we got the likes of Tiffany Haddish. Alicia key Sherri Shepherd, a lot of people to jump on board within the first couple of months of us launching this brand. So this

Nicaila Matthews Okome 11:29

was 2019 2019. That's what I thought. And as you were launching, especially since you launched in the hospital, what was your fulfillment system at that time? Were you doing this on your own?

April Showers 11:42

So the good thing about it is that I'm also an insurance agencies. And I had this policy, call it hospital indemnity policy. And as you guys don't have any if you have children, you definitely should get it because it's extremely inexpensive. And it paid me $250 a day. And then it was some extra money that it paid me as well. So I was able to hire a personal assistant while I was in the hospital with my son. And she went out and she sourced everything. She packaged everything and she started shipping everything for me.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 12:17

Oh, nice. That's so smart. Thank you for that tip that you shared with everyone. You know, I think a lot of people know about disability insurance, all the different types of insurances you are well versed in, because you own a State Farm. Right. So once you were able to get back to being in the business, what happened next life.

April Showers 12:34

So the day that my son got out of the hospital the following day, my favorite uncle died of a massive heart attack. Oh my god. 17 hours later, My other uncle his brother died of pneumonia. Wow. And then we had a double shooter role the following week, and broke my grandmother's heart, she died six months later. It was all gas, no brakes. Like for me, the I'm from Los Angeles, I launched my brand, like right after Nipsey Hussle dies. So I have this mind state of, you know, the marathon continues. For me. It's all gas, no brakes. That's my slogan. And I hustled those early days is even still today. Like I have a social media manager. But I'm in my social media account all the time. I'm the one that's constantly engaging with people. I know these people, they know me, I went out and I found my audience. So I never used it. When I got back to the business. Now the business started in the hospital and it hasn't stopped hasn't stopped. Well, friends, it's literally been August no breaks.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 13:41

I've heard you say, oh, gas, no brakes. And you know, that is definitely I don't even know how you did that power through like that. But it just goes to show your determination. So now, I want to talk a little bit about the licensing piece. Because whenever I meet new black women entrepreneurs, and I'm learning about your business, even though it shouldn't be a surprise, it's always so surprised to me when I see or read some kind of new record that we've broken or some kind of new thing that we've accomplished. So you are the first black woman to own a fully licensed character brand. What does that mean? And how did you find out that you were the first

April Showers 14:23

because it's a very small group number one, and I see who's in the room and who looks like me and they don't. So the way that it happened and our people first of all, just let people understand what being a licensed character brand is because it's not the space that we've been in. So it goes over a lot of people's heads. I knew nothing about it until it was brought to me. So basically, after a unicorn is on the level of your Disney brands, your Marvel your Nickelodeon your air was an MG wherever lol is think is MGA. So that is what being a licensed character brand and those are also my direct competitors. When you look for AFA uniform products, it's not necessarily in the Black History Month section or the black curated section. It's in the character section next to Mickey next to Elsa, Nexus niche like that is where you will find after a unicorn, discovering that I was the first black woman I mean, there are no other black license. Character brands, they're all my black people. Disney does a great job with creating black inspired characters. But Disney is not black on Afro unicorn is black own. The way that I was able to get this opportunity is because of all the hard work that we've done building this grassroots brand, through social media, empowering other people showing how they were unique, divine and magical sharing their posts. 90% of all that you see on African unicorn are our customers. One of the videos went viral. Six months after it was posted of a little girl named Cassidy Brianna taking photos in her African or quarantine, she has a big afro and someone walked by her and said I love your hair. With all the confidence in the world. She said thank you. It's an afro. And that video went viral. So you're familiar the video so that video went viral? Everybody's Mama was sharing it, including Beyonce is and then Oprah daily shared it and then when the big O shared it. That's when Walmart saw it. And it wasn't that they Oprah like tag after a unicorn. But the comments were sealed with that's after unicorns baby. That's after unicorn shirt. So the buyer then saw that and said, I need to find this after unicorn brand. So I got an email that said after unicorn X Walmart collaboration, have you considered party supplies? And then we got on a call. And that's when I learned about licensing and I had no idea what she was talking about what was getting ready to happen, but I have now mastered it.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 17:12

So what does it actually mean? So you know, a lot of us know trademarks, right? You you go to the US trademark and Patent Office website, you start the process, you're gonna work with an attorney, you are setting up an entity, you know how to start that process. How does one start the licensing process,

April Showers 17:29

and those are the very first steps. And I did that exactly everything that you said the finally attorney there trademarking having the entity, we are an S corp, but I did that on day one, because I always knew afternoon form was going to be big, I knew it was gonna be a household name, worldwide brand. I've been quoted since 2019, saying this, but I didn't know that I will still be the CEO. I thought that I would have to sell the brand, to a Mattel or Hasbro or somebody like that to get this brand. That worldwide exposure. Licensing allows me to still be 100%, co owner, owner of the brand and allow companies like Hasbro Mattel to use my trademark that I own to produce products to sale into major retail. So that's how we first started with my and through the party supplies. There were two licensees on the licensor, I give them the right to use my trademark. And that's how we got into the party supply section. First, we're now I have over 45 partners, about 500 products and retail right now in over 20 different retailers.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 18:49

So what's the difference between I've had many businesses come on this show and they have a product in Target or Walmart. And that product has a character on it now, yes, those products were probably in the you know, the Black History Month section. So is that why they didn't necessarily license that product and why they're not a, you know, licensed character partner?

April Showers 19:15

No, it's not. It's lack of knowledge. It's a small circle. Um, they don't know about it. Everyone just knows that they need to find a warehouse and distribution company in China to manufacture their stuff and they can go on was it, Ali, Bobby or whatever to order their products and they really have a warehouse full of products that they're shipping out. Because they don't know about licensing partners. I always go back to the infamous interview wicks way and Kanye, like at the end of the day Kanye was talking about licensing. He also didn't understand it at that time either. And that's what his frustration with sway was because he was saying like, I'm not getting And the information that the Tommy Hilfiger is on the Ralph Lauren's like, they're able to get their products out to mass and I'm not winning at that. And sway was like, because you're, you're rich, you know, you got all the money, you got the facilities, you know, just do it yourself. And he's like, I lost 27 million. Trying to do it that way. Like, you don't have the answers. I'm telling you. There's something else out there and no one's having this conversation. You SAS for eight years later, he does a licensing deal with Adidas. He did a bad contract because he didn't read it. But you know, a licensing contract with adidas he became a billionaire. You know, and on people when I say it now, like, people make comments like, oh, but he says we have the answers. Don't let Kanye for you. Because Kanye was right down the street on pch pulled up to Skechers, or the C tried to pull up to Skechers. After all that was done because he knows this is the easier way to make it happen. It's almost impossible to scale at the level of the billion without having a supportive partner network, like licensing 50 cent did it like there was a few that have done it FUBU was doing it like to get to the scale of the unicorn brand. And that's what we're all trying to be Yeah, billion dollar level is almost impossible to try to you have this warehouse and package your items. I'm really

Nicaila Matthews Okome 21:23

fascinated by this. Because at what point do you know if that's what you should pursue? So if you're you get called by Target and Walmart, you're so excited, like, Okay, we're gonna do a run, they're gonna give me this money, when they call them doors. Do you then say, oh, but also pay me to license the character on my T shirt. So

April Showers 21:43

it's not the retailer, the retailer can do that. But most licensing deals are with other third parties, other vendors. I didn't know anything about licensing before I got into it. So I reached out to a couple of people to test the waters to ask questions. And my manager now his name was Ischia thoughts and he reached out to somebody who happens to be JoJo See, whilst prior attorney, he told us to watch the toys that made us on Netflix, and that is how I got my one on one and licensing. And those are the stories of Hello Kitty Barbies, Star Wars Ninja Turtles. So it's about all the classic brands and how they broke out in licensing. Licensing is not something that you you can go after But life isn't actually has to find you. Because there has to be a demand and a need for whatever the product that you have. Here's a tidbit for you guys to take. It's a jam there is licensing expos, it happens in Vegas every single year and May or June. But you can just search licensing Expo and there it's just like, all the big names are there all your Disney's all your Marvel's and they have booths set up and you can go in and look at the squish mellows and set up appointments to talk to these different companies. They have one in Europe, which we're going to call BLE brand licensing Europe. So there again, it's information like we all notice, we all know that these events happen. And to your point, that conversation about doors, I was being coached by someone before I got into retail. And she's real popular has had her stuff into retails are a little bit. And she was telling them like, hey, Walmart hit me up, they want to bring me in, like what questions should I ask? She was like, well, just so you know, they're not going to tell you because they they don't know the information yet. But if you want to ask them how many doors she goes, but I'm letting you know I'm in a black brand, they're probably going to start off between like 100 to 300 doors to test the brand. So when I asked that question, the response I got from the merchant blew me away because I was like, I know you don't know the answer. But can you tell me about how many doors and she automatically was like, well, a minimum is gonna be 1000. I have gone to all Walmart doors. But you know, initially she saw one I was like, Whoa, we just almost that's not what I heard what I heard. So that's when I knew Oh, you're getting ready to step into a whole nother space a whole nother dimension? I do and what we're doing with learning this licensing game and learning who the players are. We are working on building our own licensing agency for the urban side to find those brands out there that would work really great in this space and helping coach them and navigate them through the different partners and seeing what traction we can get with their brand. We're starting it with thank you it's an afro we Cassidy Brianna. Walmart has just purchased her books. So she's going in August 16, I believe. And then she has some other retailers that are lined up. So Do we want to just help other brands build it out, but you there has to be a demand, there has to be a need for which demands.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 25:05

Right? And I'm glad you mentioned that because what you created right now, it seems like oh, that's a no brainer. Of course, I want to have party supplies with Apple unicorn on it. That's amazing. I'm so glad I don't have to just default to the white unicorn. But before it was created, we just accepted the status quo, right. And so as you're thinking, you know, you guys as you're listening and thinking about things, don't just get caught up in Oh, I like this character. It looks cute. Think that? Does anyone else want it? Does anyone else want it for that kid's birthday party or for holidays or what have you.

When I started podcasting, I knew I wanted to sell merch. So I started small with one t shirt. Now I'm selling T shirts, hoodies, joggers, mugs, you name it. And it's so easy all because I use Shopify. Shopify is the global commerce platform that helps you sell at every stage of your business. From the launch your online shop stage to the first real life store stage, all the way to the we just hit a million dollars stage. Shopify is there to help you grow. Whether you're selling beauty products or content planners, Shopify helps you sell everywhere, from they're all in one ecommerce platform to their in person, point of sale system, wherever and whatever you're selling. Shopify has got you covered. Shopify helps you turn browsers into buyers with the internet's best converting checkout up to 36% better compared to other leading commerce platforms, and sell more with less effort. Thanks to Shopify magic, your AI powered all star. What I love about Shopify is no matter how big you want to grow, Shopify gives you everything you need to take control and take your business to the next level. Shopify powers 10% of all e commerce in the US, and Shopify is the global force behind Allbirds, rafizi and brooklinen and millions of other entrepreneurs of every size across 175 countries. Plus, Shopify is award winning help is there to support your success every step of the way. Because businesses that grow grow with Shopify, sign up for a $1 per month trial period at shopify.com/hustle. Pro, all lowercase, go to shopify.com/hustle. Pro now to grow your business no matter what state you're in, again, that's shopify.com/hustle Pro.

How do you show the demand? So let's say you created this, and you do see potential? How do you show demand?

April Showers 27:47

Well, first, I would check that whitespace like are there other things that look like what you're doing? Or they currently are already out there? And not saying that you can't do it, but just you have a better chance when nobody else is doing what you're doing and that and don't come

Nicaila Matthews Okome 28:06

with a remix on the unicorn. A black unicorn because

April Showers 28:10

you get a whole cease and desist. And we will be in litigation. Yes. But anyways.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 28:19

I know because people see an image on the internet. They're like, Oh, this is cute. No, no, no, no, no.

April Showers 28:24

As we speak, but anyways, um, so a lot of people come to me and they're like, damn, they're like, We I want to do what you do. How do I get into Target? How do I get into Walmart? And I always go back to well, what are you doing now to build the brand? Yes, who is your audience? Like are you filling the need? What are you supplying? Like what are your sales currently? Oh, I'm going on your social media page you haven't posted in two weeks? What are we even like? Why are you DMing me you don't you don't take this serious whatsoever. So why would you think that any retailer or vendor will want to like put up millions of dollars when you don't even push your brand so you have to test the demand yourself on your own platform again, Walmart saw those posts and they saw the comments about Africa unicorn because we work very hard to build a loyal following. Our people are out here just buying followers. I am solid chance that and I have preached this. Yeah, I would love for you in Christ to go live every single Saturday morning and I will give business advice. I will bring people like you on to talk to the people to try to give them a sense of some quarters and some nickels. So you might like to plan on it. But yes, because I've always preached about you got to show up as your authentic self. And all of this stuff out here about buying follow Words and trying to make your brand look like it's not, it's not helping you, because you can't test your audience. You're flooded with bots, you're flooded with people who don't look like you who will never try your product. So you don't even know is this actually something?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 30:17

Because your talk when it's time to have people click on that Lincoln bio, they're not really your audience. So you're not seeing that conversion, you're not seeing that traction to your website. Correct.

April Showers 30:28

And so don't just get caught up in this Hollywood, or whatever of social media, like, you want to find your core audience. Like it's so important. Before we even started having them before you hit me in my DM about how do you get in target? How do you get in Walmart, I need to see what are you doing with what you have, and why people make all these excuses. That's why it's so important for me to talk about multiple businesses. I'm a single mom of two boys, I birth this when I was in the hospital, I had two uncles to pass away, our grandmother died, because a lot of people will give me all their excuses. Why they impulses last week, I don't want to hear

Nicaila Matthews Okome 31:13

what were the startup costs like for this business.

April Showers 31:16

So the cool thing about the t shirt business, and I've done a video on this before you can launch a t shirt brand within 48 hours less than 250 bucks, through Shopify, prenta, phi, Shopify and prenta phi, I think to start no $29 A month or something's not a lot of money, you upload your images to their site. So it doesn't take a lot of money to start a t shirt brand. For licensing, it doesn't take anything, but you can't even get to licensing until you have built a following built a brand. And I also want to add, most of the times with character licensing. They won't even consider it unless it has content. We're very fortunate. And we are a unicorn brand. Because we got into this game heavy without having content we have signed, you know our production deals. And we're going to be working on the animated cartoon series and all of that. But for the most part, you got to have content to be that makes in this licensing character space. There's other licensing areas. I'm just in the character space right now. But there's so many other things that you can license, I have books coming out. And I have four licensing publishing deals, one being Random House, that's three books coming out with Random House next month, next month, next next month in September, and those are licensing deals as well. There's so many avenues for licensing your there's companies like Ellen Tracy, I think that's how you say that's a license. In fact, clothing and Calvin Klein license like so many. There are so many licensing deals out there a lot of people that candy companies license,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 33:04

it's good that you're bringing attention to this. Because I haven't actually done a lot of content around this on this podcast. So you're teaching me and I know you're teaching others as well. And now it's something that will be in our minds as we pursue our business ideas like what space can we really be in? What are the other opportunities that we're overlooking, that this could lead to? And how long were you doing business? yourself before Walmart came calling?

April Showers 33:30

So we launched May of 2019. And Walmart called us in August of 2021.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 33:36

Okay, so this is something where you had time to build and show and it's good that we emphasize that because this is not something that happened overnight. And I think because we jumped right into it, it can sound like that, like, boom, you started Walmart called you, and

April Showers 33:51

then also is the level of what I did within those two years before Walmart caught me. I forget the author's name, Malcolm. I look at it but Malcolm Clary, go and we talked about you talked about the 10,000 hours. Yes, ma'am. Because what I do I did was I a lot a lot of work, like I spend every day when I was in that hospital, you know, at least seven hours on social media, finding my audience and telling them like I would go into your comments and say, Hey, have you ever seen an afro unicorn before I created a brand of women of color who hustle, follow the movement? Like I would go in there and making sure I hit 50 people within an hour with that comment. I knew that they associated themselves with either black girl magic or black unicorn or serial entrepreneur. I was like, hey, that's something that can relate with you. So I put in a ton of hours. So if you're just showing up to your side hustle for an hour a day. Walmart's calling you not even as yours,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 35:00

yes, you sound so unimpressed. Like, do not tell me that you just, you know, did this little bit of work and want these big names. I'm big on going out and finding your audience too. And I think that is a big misconception with social, particularly Instagram that if you just post and you do amazing, perfectly laid out aesthetic feeds or, or reels. I mean, nowadays, yeah, reels can help you grow, and they can, but it's hit or miss. So why not supplement that with also literally going out there and letting people know like, Hey, this is what I do. And so you can do that with engaging with other people who you think will be interested in your content, your business, your brand, and it's not a spammy thing. I'm not just saying Oh, go follow everybody. Like, really hone in on who your person is. Who are they following? What hashtags what people and go out there and get to know them? Like, really do some social media network. So that's why I always say social media is a place to be social. Not a place to be seen. I liked that. I liked that. Yeah, I love to say like, it's just like in person networking. It's just social media, the virtual element of it. But yeah, it's not about being seen. It is about being social, I like that as well.

Now, did you do anything in addition to social anything else to market your business that you can share any tips?

April Showers 36:27

So we definitely Applegate when we knew we had a big company like WalMart, that one in our brand number, we're gonna be in so many doors, which we're all of them. Were like, Okay, so who does the marketing like how they're like, Oh, you

Nicaila Matthews Okome 36:44

funny, like, you can be in store, but you still gotta market. Yeah, so

April Showers 36:47

hyped about going into retail, but they don't even understand that that's just a holding space for your products. They're not spending marketing dollars to drive people to your particular product. We've been blessed to have some great partnerships with our retailers. And they have done some things for us. And I'm extremely thankful. But at the end of the day, marketing, if you're in retail falls on you as the brand owner. So one of the things that we did very fast was to hire a PR company and publicists to help get the national news out about Afro unicorn. Because again, my mindset when I went in was like, Okay, I'm gonna have about 200 doors that I'm going to direct people in. And that even kind of scared me a little bit because I run it operate, you know, my insurance agency, but that's one door on marketing to get you to one address in one city. But when you talk about multiple doors, and this is stuff people don't think about, and I remember in the beginning, I don't ever let fear gripped me to where I don't move the wire allow fear to do for me, is to push me into coming up with an action plan. Because once I have a plan of action, then I can overcome that that fear or that anxiety I have. But if you truly think about the idea, and I want you guys to really listen to this, because all people are so gung ho to get into retail 3500 doors, 3500 doors, they say your product is gonna go into, it could be in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, all these areas where people don't even necessarily look like you are you don't even know anyone in these areas. But it's up to you to market your products in those stores. It's a big responsibility, and it's a heavy, heavy weight.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 38:48

How do you do that? Do you fly out to the different states and do events,

April Showers 38:53

you got to come up with some kind of plan? So for us, I was like, There's no way I can pop up to all 50 states identify the key markets, we have to have great publicity. It's not always easy finding the right publicist, either, because we're not having this conversation that we feel like publicists have a run. Like they go through their contacts, and then they'll dry up. So it's almost like oh, they're fresh, to get new leads. So we were thankfully for Afra unicorn we launched and retail in June. And August, I was being interviewed by the Gayle King, which was amazing. So we started off at Nationals. We had CBS mornings that I did Good Morning America. So we did a lot of national news stories. So we try to do as many national news stories we tried to do. You know a lot of press releases and what you have to do when you're in this space, you have to which we did it after unicorn like every single step. Internet, I share small businesses for free on my stories. I've been doing that since the beginning. And before and I was sharing my will go out I would like posted him and share your business in our story, cricket. But I always got to start the wave that you want to see. So I would just go down my timeline, I saw that you had a business and I will just go promote you into my story and tax Small Business Saturday until people caught on and people saw all this is what they do over there. Now, before I even get up on Saturday morning, my inbox is full of businesses, but you have to create them. So with going into retail what we did, you have to create that buzz. So you got to get press releases out there, you got to get people to start talking about your brand. And then organically. Other news outlets will start picking it up and covering that story that you want to do events and you want to find different foundations like we're doing an event with girls in Colorado a couple of weeks, I'm dropping a whole haircare line. So we're going to give 20 young girls who are going back to school, new hairdos for school, and we're going to be marketing the haircare products and I just got off the phone with the company partake and they have cookies. I have lunch pail so we're gonna do a collaboration together where we're gonna do a giveaway you get through could love. If I just

Nicaila Matthews Okome 41:17

spoke to Denise. Yeah, we're having an update episode. So I love seeing that collaboration. Yes.

April Showers 41:23

So that's what it's all about just seeing all the opportunities and marketing that you can create, to create some noise. And it's very hard for us because for our competitors are our competitors. Again, Disney Marvel and Nick. I'm not graded on a curve. I'm not graded against other black brands, graded against billion dollar companies who have been in business for 50 to 100 years when they run those reports. They are looking at its party supplies and 10 characters over there. Spider Man Batman, Elsa, after unicorn or like, oh, after unicorn, is this level on the list? Like, yeah, because

Nicaila Matthews Okome 42:04

that's not fair. Like how are you got to compete with, like Princess Tiana and Elsa, come on. It's not like you can't, but you have so many years to catch up with. And they don't care exposure.

April Showers 42:20

They don't care. They don't care. She's still there. Yeah, we're still there. But we want to stay there. And the problem is, if we don't if Africa corn is not successful, they will not bring on another. So we have to ensure at least I have to ensure the brand's success and getting the word out there. And I'm thankful for you to give me the opportunity to be on your platform. Because it matters. It all matters. Walmart shared that only 12% of their customers are African American. That's a very small number. In comparison to I'm surprised

Nicaila Matthews Okome 42:57

by that, I don't know why I'm surprised by that. Just never know. And if all 12% of y'all don't know about after unicorn, I got a problem. Yep. So I have to do the work. We have to. And I do really hope that I guess I haven't been in the space of looking for character products, right. So sometimes that can be a limitation like all of us are in our social media silos. And if you're literally not looking for that, you might not come across it. So I can understand why it's so hard to you know, make sure you continue to get exposure. It's not that we don't want to know that it's there. It just goes to show how much you can be in a bubble and not know. So this is why I like us. I love this show. I love learning about new types of products. And I aim to really try to learn about different spaces and not just keep showing the same kind of brands over and over again. So thank you for allowing me to do that and for bringing so much knowledge about licensing to today's episode like this was really, really informative.

Before we get into the lightning round, I would love to know what your experience on the finance side has been. A lot of people lose money when they get to retail they gotta fulfill and do all this stuff, even though licensing might be different because Right? They're gonna do some of that for you. I assume. So what's been your experience profitable breaking even? Where are you?

April Showers 44:26

So we're definitely profitable. Our think I posted this last quarter so we launched in June of last year and retail. And then so last year, I think we ended up 5 million in gross sales. Sorry, it was three and then this first quarter we were already at five. Wow. So that's amazing. There is no upfront costs that I have outside of marketing. spend a ton of money though. To get African crap, my manager literally just said today, he was like, people don't understand, you know, 90% of that money is going back out. Yeah, it does go out. But I will say we're profitable, because I'm able to employ, we're now like at six different people. Now I have a whole agency that we also employing. You don't mind my kids then worry about nothing. So we good. But we think about things that they actually pay you to like. And so when I tried to do with the money, there's a thing called mg, which is minimum guarantee. So on most licensing deals, they pay you part of that contract deals that they give you in advance. Like the contract not only includes a royalty rate, but it also includes an MG. So they have to pay you $1 amount. And we've had them as high as low as I actually want to say as low as we've had them as high as right now. Like, I can tell you, because it can vary. So you can have no MGS depending on the type of deal. And it could go up to a million we haven't gotten up to a million mg yet. But we've gotten hubs, I think 300 on an EMG. Okay, so that's money that they write that check out to you. Okay, and then they have that sauce, and they have to go out and sell it into retail to recoup that money that they've already given to you. And then after they recruited, then you start seeing royalties on top of that. So what we're doing, we take our mg money, and we put it into marketing.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 46:38

And do they do a little bit can you petition to say, All right, you know, sometimes coming up, can Afro unicorn be in one of the featured homepage spreads on planning a summer barbecue or something like that? Can you do any of that to get a little bit of their visibility? I

April Showers 46:55

do? I do. Because I let them know, look, the people at Walmart, they know me.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 47:02

Right, right.

April Showers 47:07

is the largest retailer in the US. And they are the beast. And so forever knocking on their doors. A lot of people are like, Oh, you're not emailed now. And nobody hit me back. I'm like, Okay, it's been 72 hours. Where's the next email going out? Like, that's how I because there's so many opportunities that they have in a marketing stuff where again, it's not their responsibility, but how ever especially as a black own brand, you want to knock at their doors and say, Hey, what opportunities do you have? So I've been very blessed to be featured on Walmart's homepage for their black history. I've been able to be featured for summer, because we had all these summer toys, they had this feature. They're trying to work with them now for Black History next month, they have had me a part of the BT her experience, like they know, but they say, you can't be on everything. And I'm like, why not?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 48:04

Why not?

April Showers 48:07

Has anybody? Right? But no, you got to because how else can I sell three doors next to Nikki exactly like I need you guys. If you guys are saying that you want diverse brands in your stores. And these are also the conversations that I have with these executives, you cannot say that you want diversity in your stores, and you're not willing to truly be the gap that's needed for them to be successful. So I'm constantly not having these conversations just for alpha unicorn. But for all of the black brands, and what are you guys doing for visibility, Walmart is one of the largest retailers but they're also the largest retailer to support the most black businesses. I know people think it's the other, the Walmart is the largest. So that's why they support so many of us. But we just don't know, we don't know it because they're not screaming it from the mountaintops, they're not showing it inside the stores. I'm like, let's do a better job of bringing all these black brands together. So the community can see how much you support black brands, and they do support black brands. And we get that 12% number

Speaker 2 49:17

up a little bit higher. But let the people know that you guys really support black brands because they really, really

April Showers 49:25

do and they do a great job. And so this target but we all know that we want people to know that we're supported everywhere.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 49:32

And I don't know about y'all, but I now want to create a character that I can license and that's what Nicaila is gonna be researching next. So now, April, let's shift into the lightning round you just answer the very first thing that comes to mind. All right. Okay, number one, what is the resource not Google that has helped you in your business that you can share with the side hustle Pro Audio The

April Showers 50:00

book who not how discovering the who? And not always the how.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 50:07

Number two who is a non celebrity non famous black woman entrepreneur, who you would switch places with for a day and why? Whoo,

April Showers 50:16

okay, that one came at me at lightning speed. I will places with you Nicaila Because I like interviewing people.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 50:26

You learn a lot from interviewing people definitely learn a lot. And then afterwards, I'm like, Okay, let's have this follow up conversation. Once I have my character ready. But thank you. Number three, what's a non negotiable part of your day these days? journaling.

April Showers 50:43

So I manifest and I journal every day. And if I skip it, the day is off. So I have to make sure I'm writing down the three things that major big goals I want to happen, the 10 things that I'm grateful for. And that one little daily goal that I want to happen for today, if I don't do it Monday is

Nicaila Matthews Okome 51:06

okay. Number four, what's a personal trait about you? That has contributed to your success?

April Showers 51:13

Um, tenacious, I think is what I heard you say that? The parallel Yeah, I'm it's all gasp no brakes. If I see a wall, I'm going through it if what I want is on the other side. And

Nicaila Matthews Okome 51:25

then finally, number five, what is your parting advice for fellow side hustlers, who when they want to be their own boss, but are worried about not having a steady paycheck? You

April Showers 51:36

have to believe in whatever it is that you want to do with all of your heart mine. Every being like, this is something you think about when you wake up. It's something you think about before you go to sleep. And if it's not, it just may not be the right fit for you. Because what I know what people with nine to five jobs, you know that regardless, you're gonna get that check is different when you know you're responsible for that check. So before you jump into it, check your temperature for commitment, and hard work. I know a lot people make it look easy. I'll make it look in because I'm cute. But

Nicaila Matthews Okome 52:23

sealer on daily requirements, okay, for me.

April Showers 52:33

My answer for the daily is concealer. But if you're not a person, if you're not working hard on your job, right now, you're gonna paycheck. If you're not working hard, you're not gonna work hard for yourself. You people say, Oh, I'm just not working hard. And I work for somebody else. No, it's your mindset. You're just not a hard worker.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 52:56

So it like it is Oh, wow. Okay, so let's,

April Showers 53:01

oh, I'm sorry, Nicaila. I'm a real one. That's why I get it exactly. Equal. keeps

Nicaila Matthews Okome 53:10

it real. And, you know, it's true. Because I know for one, like, when, oh, some of the jobs I worked out, I was definitely flying under the radar at a certain point, right? Because I was more interested in my side hustle, but you can't do that for your own job. So understand what you mean. When you have you're really checking with yourself? Yeah, you can't just fly under the radar and still, so really do have to be honest with ourselves like, alright, what am I willing to do here? So where can people connect with you and get more of your advice? And your lessons, April after this episode, so

April Showers 53:45

you can get more of me at God April showers on Instagram, follow me there. I'm going to start going live every Sunday morning to give some inspiration and some thoughts and talk about licensing. And then a brand is after unicorn underscore official. That's a good place to tap and especially if you're on business, because again, I wake up at 6am Every Saturday morning to share your businesses. We say I'm on Pacific Standard Time, but I say 9am to 12pm Eastern Time, which is 6am for me, so don't be like oh, it's up early. I'm up at 6am Get up. It's free. I'm gonna reshare it

Nicaila Matthews Okome 54:26

I love that idea. I might have to do a modified at some point. So guys, there you have April. It's been an absolute pleasure speaking with you. I've learned so so much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you and congratulations on all that you have accomplished. And guys, I will talk to you next week. Hey guys, thanks for listening to side hustle proud. If you liked the show, be sure to subscribe rate and review on Apple podcasts. It helps other side hustlers just like you to find the show. And if you want to hear more from me, you can follow me on it. to grant a side hustle Pro, plus sign up for my six bullet Saturday newsletter at side hustle Pro, that CO slash newsletter. When you sign up, you will receive weekly nuggets from me, including what I'm up to personal lessons and my business tip of the week. Again, that side hustle pro.co/newsletter to sign up, talk to you soon

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Meet the host:

Nicaila Matthews-Okome

Hi! I’m Nicaila, the Creator and Host of the Side Hustle Pro Podcast. I started Side Hustle Pro when I was a side hustler myself. I was a digital marketer at NPR by day, side hustler by night. Through the powerful stories shared on this show and the courage to launch my own initiatives, I was able to quit my own job and go full time with Side Hustle Pro.

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